Market Anarchist Joseph R. Stromberg takes on the Land Monopoly, and examines how political expropriation, the tax economy, and political constraints on workers’ access to small-scale land ownership have combined to create an economy of dependence, employment and top-down capitalism.
“Where resources are ‘open,’ few will work for big enterprises, and the latter will (if they can) institute some form of slavery. One never finds free land, free peasants, and non-working owners together. Why? Because where political leverage allows, aspiring lords and rent-seekers will eliminate the free land, the free peasants, or both. Enterprisers in colonies have always wanted regular supplies of cheap labor for their projects. Aided by colonial administrators with the same assumptions, they gradually overcame native economic independence. Land was the key. No matter how hard natives worked on their holdings, colonialists decried their ‘idleness’ — and their uncivilized failure to work for wages. Colonial bureaucrats and employers saw a definite connection between small-scale landownership and independence, and resolved to cut that independence short….
“I doubt we are necessarily better off merely because of employment. We need to know more, including why particular sets of choices exist in the first place. Back in the ’60s, Selective Service used to ‘channel’ us into the ‘right’ occupations by threatening to draft us. What if proletarianization is not the ideal form of human life? What if a complex division of labor is merely useful or convenient, but not a moral imperative? What if most of us are hirelings, well paid or otherwise, and then we learn what that status amounts to? Unfreedom arises both from direct, forcible coercion and from institutional arrangements that make people dependent. Freedom requires that we not be menaced by latent unknown powers. Freedom in this sense is liberty—a shared civic or public good. Like many real public goods it is not provided by the state, indeed the state may be its chief enemy….”
Introduced November 2011.